It is expected that the Goddard Inquiry will shortly commence its investigation into the extent to which institutions and organisations based in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibilities to protect children outside the UK from sexual abuse. Charities that carry out work internationally should prepare for future announcements about this investigation and ensure that they are complying with existing guidance from the Goddard Inquiry and statements by the Chair.
Steady progress has been made on the first four investigations to get underway as part of the Goddard Inquiry. The Inquiry has held preliminary hearings in relation to its investigations concerning Lord Greville Janner, The Anglican Church, Lambeth Council, and Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale. Last week the Inquiry also reached decisions on the 94 applications for core participant status made in respect of those investigations.
In light of this progress, it is expected that the next tranche of investigations will commence shortly and that this will include the Inquiry’s investigation into the protection of children outside the United Kingdom. Charities that work with children outside of the UK will fall within the scope of this investigation. As such, these charities should be proactively taking steps now to lay the groundwork for engaging fully with the Goddard Inquiry within its prescribed deadlines and to ensure that any potential areas of risk arising in relation to the investigation have been foreseen and appropriately managed at an early stage.
Charities which work internationally are likely to face particular practical issues in preparing for the Goddard Inquiry. These issues may range from the potentially significant logistical challenge of gathering data from multiple offices across different countries, including successfully managing a unified process where different cultures and practices may prevail, through to navigating countries’ different laws in respect of issues such as data retention and disclosure.
In preparation for the next tranche of investigations, charities which work internationally should consider taking the following steps:
- Trustees should be informed about the scope of the Goddard Inquiry and kept up to date on all developments.
- Charities should consider establishing a core internal group of staff to lead and coordinate the charity’s preparation for and engagement with the Goddard Inquiry.
- Charities should start to determine what relevant documents and records are stored in the UK and in the countries in which it operates and, if necessary, take steps to ensure that relevant records are retained, copied and transferred to the team coordinating the charities’ preparation. In this respect, it will be necessary to consider both any data retention and sharing policies that the charity has in place and the effect of any applicable laws in the place where the data is held. The Chair of the Goddard Inquiry has made it clear that no institution “can be in any doubt of the extent of their duty to preserve records for the Inquiry, or of the consequences of failing to do so”. These comments apply to any organisation which may fall within the scope of the Goddard Inquiry, not just those who have been specifically named.
- Charities should identify and, as appropriate, investigate and/or report to the relevant authorities historic and/or current allegations of child sexual abuse. The Chair of the Goddard Inquiry has said that organisations should review “files, records and procedures voluntarily and take the initiative to self-report instances of institutional failure, rather than waiting for us to come and see you”. Charities are therefore expected to report relevant matters to the Goddard Inquiry, in addition to reporting to other appropriate authorities such as the police.
- Charities should review relevant historic and existing policies and practices. Even where a charity may satisfy itself that no historic or current allegations of child sexual abuse have been made in relation to its work outside the UK, the Goddard Inquiry may still examine the content and operation of its policies and practices. An early internal review of relevant policies and practices will ensure that a charity is well placed to comment on them.
- Charities should consider making a serious incident report to the Charity Commission if the charity will engage with the Goddard Inquiry and/or there is a potentially serious risk to the charity and its reputation.
- Charities should notify their insurers of potential engagement with the Goddard Inquiry and ensure that insurers are informed of any developments. Charities should consider whether specialist insurance needs to be obtained. It is worth noting that an insurer has made a successful application for core participant status in the Anglican Church Investigation. Although applications for core participant status in the investigation concerning children outside the UK are not yet open, charities should be aware that their insurers may later apply.
BWB is well placed to advise charities who work internationally on all aspects of their engagement with the Goddard Inquiry, from initial internal preparation to participation in hearings and external media management. BWB’s team has previously advised a range of clients in respect of both inquiries and investigations in child safety and child abuse and on engagement with high profile inquiries under the Inquiries Act 2005.
Posted on 27/04/2016 in Legal UpdatesBack to Knowledge